Part II: Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Washington Sq Park May 28, 2009: ReportBack

Updated

It’s hard to know where to begin to describe last Thursday’s (May 28th) Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Washington Square Park which marked the “official” ceremony celebrating the reopening of the long-under-construction NW Quadrant and Fountain Plaza. It was a well planned event with food and drinks and music and speeches by elected officials and other community and business association members. But … who knew there were Parks Department flags, trucks, suitcases, tents? Parks Department flags lined the entire Plaza around the Fountain. Clearly, NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe wanted to make certain without a doubt that, at the end of the day, they were happy with what they accomplished – despite a muddled and often questionable “process” along the way.

I almost titled this blog entry: “Spin. Spin. Spin.” Because the overarching theme of each person’s speech was that everyone in the end worked together and the Fountain Plaza has been consistently packed since the Opening Day the week prior therefore the whole project is … a success! And not that it isn’t … (I think there are good things with the redesign and questionable things..) but there’s so much more to the story that the fact that there was such an intentional emphasis on this one repeated theme felt unnecessary and uncomfortable to me.

Let’s just be honest. At this point, can’t the Parks Department concede a point or two? But that that was not to be was apparent with my reading pre-ceremony of the Parks Department press release titled, “Community Celebrates Re-Opening of Washington Square Park.” Yes, there were community members there but it was really more about the elected officials citing how they and “the community” worked together to help smooth over any disgruntlement (apparently, according to one speaker, to reach “consensus”) and … basically… we were all the better for it.

But back to this notion that a packed Fountain Plaza equates that the “renovation” (i.e., redesign) of Washington Square Park is a success. Other than the gray day that appeared on the day of the ribbon cutting, the previous week had been quite been stunning weather-wiseWhy wouldn’t people want to be gathering on a plaza in Greenwich Village around a (famous) Fountain…? Is that so unusual? (We live in a city with 8 million people and who knows how many tourists coming through at one time…)

I sat there one day the week the Park opened with my computer (no WiFi … but I actually don’t think there should be WiFi in Parks although it would be nice at times and it certainly would make my life easier…) around the Fountain and I really enjoyed sitting there. Do I still have concerns about the design…? Yes.

Some comments made at the ceremony:

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe:

This is a special park and a special celebration today.

George Vellonakis spent a lot of time in the park. The project had to be explained again and again.

Along the way, there were some lawsuits. You don’t do anything in New York without a lawsuit.

The park is 20% greener now… we took a lot of the paving out.

Most of the mail we get isn’t positive. [then reads two positive letters received about the park]

NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

All the yelling was worthwhile… made the park more beautiful, more usable.

Always designed with the community in mind.

We have to thank NYU who has been a great partner in this.

NY City Council Member Alan Gerson

In my lifetime this is the third renovation I’ve lived through. Striking the right balance is essential. Everyone who argued, everyone who screamed, everyone who took part… [all led to this moment].

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer

Adrian Benepe is a piece of work. … He’s done an amazing job as Parks Commissioner. With community collaboration, great things can happen.

Pennies In The Fountain

Pennies In The Fountain

Village Alliance (local Business Improvement District) President Honi Klein

7 1/2 years ago started planning for the [renovation of the] park.

I was here Tuesday – Opening day. Washington Square Park is iconic … known for everything and anything goes. On Tuesday, there were more people here than you could possibly imagine.

Washington Square Association President Anne-Marie Sumner

There are natural tensions between the Parks Department and the Community [but we have a] magnificent result. A painters’ paradise.

Community Board 2 Chairperson Brad Hoylman

I think we reached the best conclusion for the space.

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* Part I: Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Phase I Opening in Photos June 1, 2009

Since Parks are being scaled back left and right (according to a story last week in the New York Post) due to budgetary concerns, will Washington Square Park be next?

Photos: Cat

Mayor Bloomberg Implodes?

The most interesting thing about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s re-election campaign – you know, the one made possible by his directing the City Council to overturn voted-in term limits – is watching him implode a bit. If a person deep down knows they did something not on the up-and-up, even if they’re getting away with it, I think they battle against an inner critic despite seemingly bypassing the outer ones.

Our Mayor is very wealthy and has gotten away with so much because of it (buying two elections for starters) and he seems to have a sense of entitlement that is causing him to, uh, act out a bit.

Most of the press gives him a free pass much of the time, other elected officials rarely speak out, his “competition” (ending term limits was supposed to give us more “choice” but instead has just given us less) is small and dwindles every day (Anthony Weiner just declared himself officially out of the race), and groups that might, with any other administration, speak out against some of his policies are quieted by his “private” “philanthropy.”

Therefore, it becomes almost gratifying to watch him take on himself and his inner demons in public with some verbal blunders.

From today’s New York Times, “The Latest Stray Words of An Off-The-Cuff Mayor“:

When you’re worth $16 billion, it’s all relative.

On Monday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — who owns homes in Bermuda, Florida, Colorado and London; travels the globe on two private jets; and plans to spend $80 million of his own money on a re-election bid — said that President Obama “does not get paid that much.”

That is, if a $400,000-a-year salary, a $50,000 expense account and a $19,000 entertainment budget qualifies as not much.

It was the latest puzzling remark in a re-election campaign filled with colorful foot-in-mouth mayoral utterances.

Campaign aides to Mr. Bloomberg are seeking to portray him as a sympathetic chief executive in touch with ordinary New Yorkers (witness a parade of commercials featuring a tieless mayor talking about jobs).

Mr. Bloomberg, however, has not made it easy. Since deciding to seek a third term last fall, he has declared that “we love the rich.” Reaching for an economic barometer, he described dwindling crowds at Bergdorf Goodman, the luxury department store.

He has scolded a disabled blogger, Michael Harris, who uses a wheelchair, for accidentally turning on a tape recorder at a news conference. And, last week, he bitterly rebuked a reporter, Azi Paybarah, who asked about his decision to overturn the city’s term limits law, telling him, “You’re a disgrace.”

Given Mr. Bloomberg’s commanding lead in the polls — he remains at least 10 points ahead of any rival — the missteps suggest that the biggest obstacles to his re-election are his own, unpredictable words.

If I hadn’t started the Washington Square Park Blog, my other idea was to write a blog about Mayor Bloomberg. I think a well done blog chronically the real effects of his tenure could make a difference. Maybe somebody else out there wants to take that on?